CAF Red Tail Squadron

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

Make plans to attend a special event to honor legacy of Tuskegee Airmen at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is excited to announce that they will again participate in the Tuskegee Airmen Legacy Open House, two days of FREE events in Alabama June 22 and 24 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the 100th Fighter Squadron, one of the first squadrons of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen – our country’s first black military pilots.

Experience the thrill of flight at this family-friendly event featuring modern and vintage aircraft in the air and on the ground, plus hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and more. All ages are welcome!

This is the third annual event organized by Legacy Flight Academy, a non-profit organization that conducts character-based youth aviation programs that draw upon the LEGACY of the Tuskegee Airmen. The group’s founder, United States Air Force Major Kenyatta Ruffin, is a fighter pilot who is dedicated to developing and leading innovative programs that help young people experience first-hand the exciting opportunities in aviation, aeronautics, engineering, technology and the military.

On Thursday, June 22, visit the National Tuskegee Historic Site at historic Moton Field in Tuskegee for an Open House from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

On Saturday, June 24, join the 187th Fighter Wing and 100th Fighter Squadron of the Alabama Air National Guard at Montgomery Regional Airport for an Open House from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Please, no backpacks, coolers or pets at the June 24 event.)

To ignite excitement and build a deeper understanding of aviation-related career opportunities, this exciting event will feature military aircraft on static display for hands-on and interactive viewing, up-close sights and sounds of aircraft in flight, an American flag skydiving exposition, and guest speakers sharing insights on careers in the military and the aerospace industry. Career opportunities are continuing to expand in aviation, and Legacy Flight Academy wants young people to understand what those are and how to create a path to achieve their dreams.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to experience the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, a mobile movie theater featuring the original film “Rise Above” about the inspirational history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Because of its dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen, the film creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the iconic aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

Come join us for this exciting and inspirational event, celebrating the birthplace of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Do you have Tuskegee Airmen artifacts? The CAF Red Tail Squadron wants to talk to you!

Journal pages of Harold BrownThe CAF Red Tail Squadron needs the help of our fellow CAF units. We are looking for artifacts, mementos and memorials of the Tuskegee Airmen!

We hope to create a virtual showcase of these personal items to further humanize the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen which will help people better relate to them and learn more about these important Americans. World War II may be slipping farther into the past, but, as we all know, the lessons to be learned from the Tuskegee Airmen are TIMELESS!

Here's what we need from you. If you have any artifacts (items from a uniform, log books, notes, medals, anything physical that belonged to an original Tuskegee Airmen) or know of any memorials, please get in touch with us. We will collect a photo and information from you that will be used to launch this new project and help make it a success.

Do you have any artifacts or know someone who does? Or are there any at your local air museum? Give us a call or email!

Reach out to darcy@redtail.org or (203) 297-4994. Don't wait! We need your help now!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Joint mission rallies, inspires kids with message of the Tuskegee Airmen

Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and Vice President of Education for the Commemorative Air Force, shares his thoughts on a recent event in Detroit that made a big impression on local youth. Thanks Bill for your hard work and dedication to honor the Tuskegee Airmen and inspire people through their story!

As a member and supporter of several entities that honor the Tuskegee Airmen –Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum and the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron – I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with several groups, while wearing multiple hats (or as a warbird pilot, should it be parachutes?!).

Bill Shepard at Coleman Young airport eventIn May, I represented the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen in a joint mission with the Detroit TAI chapter and the National Museum to support this summer’s air show and open house at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. This location plays an important role in the history of the Tuskegee Airmen experience, and when the call came to participate in their educational event, I agreed that this was a great opportunity for collaboration to engage kids and the community with our important message. Working together, that message was even more impactful.

The event at Coleman Young Airport gave local students a chance to experience many new aspects of aviation. They learned about both civilian and military aviation-related careers, including exciting opportunities outside the cockpit that they may not have considered or known about.

Giving kids the chance to touch, feel, hear and see a warbird up close is exciting and inspiring itself, but these aircraft help to humanize the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen and are a tangible way for young people to relate to something that ordinarily may seem too far removed from their modern life.

Together, we were all able to collectively utilize our passion and understanding of the Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy to help infuse these young people with inspiration to make good choices and set and pursue high goals for themselves. This is the power of the Airmen’s narrative, and the power of our organizations to be such a strong force for positive change in our communities.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron will also be in the Detroit area for several other events this year, including Focus: HOPE and Thunder Over Michigan. The Selfridge open house will be held August 19-20, and will include the CAF’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater and the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. We will be at the event to continue to share the stories of the Airmen at this historic home of the Tuskegee Airmen’s 477th Bombardment Group.

We’re proud to show our support for the youth of Detroit. Thanks to all the members and volunteers who made this joint mission a success!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Robert Friend

The history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is inspirational to people of all ages. Their life lessons can impart a special meaning for people from all walks of life. From a child in awe of a red-tailed airplane, to the elderly veteran full of gratitude for their fellow war heroes, there is something in each of their stories that can inspire us all to live better, fuller and braver lives.

One such hero is Robert Friend, one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airmen pilots.  Born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920, Friend was interested in aviation from a young age. He read stories of World War I pilots in old magazines and made his own makeshift airplanes for imaginative play. Friend had wanted to enlist in the Army to fly for our country, but was turned away. Even though the country was making preparations for war, black Americans could not join the Armed Forces to serve as pilots.

While a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania – the first historically black college to grant college degrees – he took aviation-related courses. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program began in 1939 for college students, Friend eagerly applied and was accepted. He completed the program and earned his private pilot’s license. But this was only the first step to becoming a military pilot. When the program opened an opportunity for a segregated pilot training program at Tuskegee, Friend finally had his chance to join the war effort and earn his wings for his country.

Robert Friend young photoAfter successfully completing all phases of training, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. By that time, the country had officially entered the war. When he deployed overseas, Friend was first sent to North Africa, then to the Europe Theater as a Combat Operations Officer at the squadron and group levels. He was responsible for planning and organizing the implementation of strategic and tactical air missions.

He was a skilled pilot in the P-47 and P-51 aircraft. He flew wing man for Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would later go on to be come the first black general of the United States Air Force. He flew 142 combat missions in World War II. His service extended in several other capacities during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He finished his education at the Air Force Institution of Technology.

His career with the Air Force included serving as Assistant Deputy of Launch Vehicles, working on important space launch vehicles such as the Titan, Atlas and Delta rockets and the Space Shuttle. He served as a Foreign Technology Program Director where he identified and monitored research and development programs related to national security. He was also the Director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, tasked with investigating unidentified flying objects.

After retiring from the military, his expertise was utilized to oversee the design and production of space products for the Space Shuttle program, lead a company that creates components for the International Space Station and other satellite systems, and direct the research and development for USAF weapons and missile programs.

When Friend was in the air during World War II, he flew a P-51D Mustang, slightly different from our P-51C model. A D model, painted up with his original “Bunny” bathing beauty, has been on static display at the Palm Springs Air Museum for a number of years, but had an extensive overhaul to make it airworthy once again, taking it’s first flight in decades in February 2015.

Although identical, this particular aircraft was not the one Friend flew, but was built near the end of the war and never saw combat. It’s almost certain that the P-51D Friend piloted himself never made it back to the states. When the war ended, it was too much trouble to return many of the combat aircraft to the U.S. and they were commonly scrapped in Europe, or if they were returned to the states they were sold to civilians for very little.

Also of credit to this inspirational Tuskegee Airman, Friend is an active participant in Ride 2 Recovery, cycling events that benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country’s wounded veterans. Friend himself has ridden in the events, and plays a large role in helping to bring awareness to the program.FullSizeRender

Want to try to keep up with this active veteran? Follow him on Facebook to see what he’s up to and where he will be next.

Lt Col Friend, we salute you for your decades of service to our country, and for inspiring future generations to pursue their dreams and make a difference, just like you and your fellow Tuskegee Airmen.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Units team up to bring inspiration to school in need

In April, several CAF units hit the road for Kansas City, Missouri to bring their message to a school that was especially in need of the kind of inspiration only CAF can provide. The team effort included Vice President of Education Bill Shepard and members of the new Red Bird Squadron, Heart of America Wing and Red Tail Squadron. Shepard was particularly eager to bring the program back to an area he used to call home, and infuse a local school in need with this important piece of history.

Leaders and volunteers from Friendship Baptist Church set out last fall on a “Power of Positive Change” campaign for George Melcher Elementary, organizing programs to help improve the overall culture of the school. Their efforts were based around the Red Tail Squadron’s Six Guiding Principles, based on the life lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen. The CAF’s special event was the pinnacle of the church’s work at the school this academic year.

Dr. Merlyne Starr, longtime supporter of the Red Tail Squadron and volunteer at Friendship Baptist Church, is credited with the idea behind the campaign, building it upon the Six Guiding Principles and inviting the CAF to participate in the final event.

What better way to educate and inspire students to rise above their own obstacles, just like the Tuskegee Airmen, than to bring the excitement of aviation direct to their doorstep! Students were treated to attention-grabbing activities like CAF’s interactive C-47 That’s All Brother cockpit simulator. Stepping inside, students got a sense of what it’s like to be in command of a real cockpit, in an aircraft that led the Allies in the invasion of Normandy. The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit’s mobile panoramic movie theater gave them the sights and sounds of the Tuskegee Airmen and their aircraft.

“CAF units worked together to expose these kids to something they have never seen before and most likely would not have access to,” said Shepard. “Melcher Elementary is a school with some of the greatest challenges, and it was an honor to partner with the volunteers of Friendship Baptist Church and support their program to help change the culture and future of this school. We both believe in the power of the Tuskegee Airmen to inspire students to rise above their own obstacles and achieve success.”

The event’s organizers were impressed not only by what CAF brought for the students, but by their dedication and enthusiasm.

“The CAF volunteers and staff had a wonderful attitude about working with our youth,” said Dr. Mary Long, co-chair of the Positive Change Campaign and owner of the Kansas City-based Diversified Leadership International. “They were so friendly and focused on their interactions with the children. We observed our students realize new goals and dreams for themselves, and change their way of thinking.”

Melcher students rotated through six unique stations designed to emphasize the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen, including CAF’s new “Flight Plan for Life” activity. Based on the premise that every pilot needs to have a well organized and thought out plan in order to have a successful mission, so does a young person. This goal-setting activity helped the students create a path to success while articulating their life goals.

“Our Wing understands the need and importance of educational outreach, and the opportunity to be involved in this event fit perfectly with that,” said Jarrett Bertoncin, PIO and Safety Officer for the Heart of America Wing. “We are building out our own education program, and working on follow-up plans at the school. We’re hopeful to tie in the Air Power History Tour with these students and the Rise Above message.”

Actor Willie Minor, of the HBO original film “Tuskegee Airmen,” also made a special appearance and brought another rousing element to the event. He gave the kids a fantastic real-life message about being a “champ or a chump”…. and the only difference is “u”! Members of the Kansas City chapter of the Black Pilots of America were also on hand to guide the students and share their perspectives.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to share how the Tuskegee Airmen have shaped American history,” said Melcher Elementary Principal Patricia Hayes. “The program taught valuable principles – like always believe in yourself, never quit, don’t be afraid to think – to our students in a unique, inspirational format.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: William Holloman

The passion that fills one’s heart for aviation can be a powerful force. Since the age of four, William Holloman wanted to fly, and that lust for the freedom of the skies stayed with him until adulthood, leading him to a long and prosperous career in the military. His illustrious time in the service and the extremes of racism that he experienced fueled his volunteer service in retirement. He spent years educating as many people as he could about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, inspiring them to identify and achieve their own lofty goals.

Holloman was born August 21, 1924 in St. Louis. Growing up, he was fascinated by airplanes. He was known to regularly walk two miles to a local airfield to watch the aircraft takeoff and land. He was hooked, and no amount of unjust racial stereotypes or discrimination was going to keep him out of the cockpit.

In August of 1942, Holloman completed his aviation cadet exam and began training to become what are known today as the Tuskegee Airmen. He graduated from training at Tuskegee and received his wings from the U.S. Air Corps in September of 1944. Assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, he flew 19 missions out of the segregated air base in Ramitelli, Italy in 1944 and 1945. Protecting bombers, strafing targets on the ground and engaging in fighter sweeps was done with great skill in his P-51. He went to war to serve his country, but to also fulfill his dream to be an airman, flying and fighting from the air.

He has said that he didn’t fully understand at the time how racist our country was when he was a young man, because growing up he didn’t feel the sting of that injustice until he was older. During the war, his fighter group was segregated in Ramitelli, the white bomber crews they were heralded for protecting stationed elsewhere. In an interview with Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine in 2007, Holloman remembers the significance of that separation.

“When we went to town, we had lots of contact with them. In Italy, we were all stationed separately but within 25 or 30 miles of each other. They embraced us when we went to town. They wouldn’t let us buy our own drinks. They were very friendly. We were all brothers in arms in a combat area,” he said. “Segregation didn’t show itself until we got back to American soil. You get off the boat, and it’s all right there. I don’t think that I really hated the social structure of the United States until I came back from Italy. It was kind of sad.”

After World War II, Holloman didn’t stop flying. He took jobs that included crop dusting in Central America and flying for a regional commercial airline in Canada. With the country drawn shortly after into the Korean War, Holloman was called back to service, attending airborne electronics school then becoming the first black helicopter pilot in the United States Air Force.

He was again activated in 1966 for the Vietnam War. He became a leading instrument examiner, check pilot and director of safety and standards. Holloman retired from the service as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1972, designated as a Master Aviator with 17,000 flight hours in military aircraft, an impressive feat at any standard. Listen to Holloman talk about his memories from his time as a pilot in an interview with the Planes of Fame Air Museum shortly before his passing.

After his four decades of service, Holloman dedicated much time and effort to speaking out and organizing events to bring attention to the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, who had little widespread recognition before the Hollywood adaptations of their story. Among many activities and appearances, he was active in the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. organization, was a technical advisor for the film “Red Tails,” and provided a great deal of research assistance to the historical reference book The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History.

He also earned degrees in business administration from the University of Maryland and in history from the University of Washington. The Seattle area became his home, and he developed a very close relationship with their Museum of Flight. There he helped develop the museum’s Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and participated in numerous panels to educate people about the Tuskegee Airmen, veterans issues and the history of black Americans in the military. His original flight jacket is also proudly displayed in Seattle’s Northwest African American Museum.

CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot Alan Miller had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Holloman and enjoying his friendship for many years. Holloman was very close with original Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, both sharing details of their service and experiences as Tuskegee Airmen with Miller.

“Bill was the life of the party everywhere he went,” remembers Miller. “He and Alex were often found together, and now Alex speaks for both of them. He is carrying the torch to make sure others know about the amazing lives they and the other Tuskegee Airmen led, and how we can all learn from their experience.”

Holloman may have retired from the military, but in a sense he never stopped serving his country. His personal dedication to educating and inspiring others through the important history of the Tuskegee Airmen left an impact on the audiences he reached.

Holloman passed away in 2010, leaving behind his wife Adele and their six children and many grandchildren. Lt Col Holloman, we salute you for your service.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Monument set to honor resting place of brothers who were Tuskegee Airmen pilots

Among the family and friends laid to rest in the Alton, Illinois, town cemetery, war heroes and brothers George and Arnold Cisco hold a unique distinction, tucked away unnoticed for decades. They both served in World War II as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, our nation’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. After all these years, members of the Alton community want to ensure their service - and the mark it left on history - will be honored and remembered for future generations.

The Tuskegee Airmen Cisco Memorial Committee of Alton has been leading a crowdfunding campaign to commission an upright granite memorial to the men. Unfortunately, the obscure, flat gravestones that currently mark their resting place do not give any indication of their important service as Tuskegee Airmen. Their project aims to change that with a monument that will include their images and that of the infamous fighter aircraft they flew in the war, educating and inspiring people about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.

Committee members include local residents Charlie Baird, United States Army veteran; Eugene Jones Baldwin, a researcher and interviewer in the Department of the Interior’s National Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project; Lorenzo Small, nephew of George and Alton Cisco; and members and staff of the Alton Museum of History and Art.

“The Cisco brothers had remained relatively unknown for 70 years and it is well past time they got the recognition they deserve,” said Brian Combs, president of the Alton Museum of History and Art. “Our museum has labored a long time to preserve our community’s history and bring an appreciation to the stories and contributions of people like George and Arnold Cisco.”

Alton’s black heritage includes helping slaves find safety in their free state. Its proximity to the Mississippi River made it an important part of the Underground Railroad, and is part of nine such sites in the region. The graves of the Cisco brothers are near the tomb and monument of Elijah P. Lovejoy, an outspoken abolitionist who was a minister and owner of the Alton Observer. In 1847, Lovejoy was killed by a pro-slavery mob that destroyed his printing press in an attempt to hinder abolitionist writings.

The monument is expected to be unveiled June 3, 2017, although efforts are ongoing to raise the last of the funds needed to finish the project. Those interested in contributing can visit their crowdfunding site to learn more and make a donation. Honoring the Cisco brothers is an important step towards shining a light on an important and overlooked piece of local history.

To help educate the community about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Cisco Brothers, the Alton Museum of History and Art hosted a free screening of “In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen” in early March. Additional events and fanfare are planned to mark the unveiling of the monument in June, including another opportunity for the community to view the film.

George and Arnold Cisco were born in 1918 and 1920 respectively and raised in Jerseyville with their parents, Roscoe and Flora Cisco, and younger brother Harlow. The rural town was just 20 miles north of Alton. Their father was a well-known musician in the area, playing piano and teaching music.

The two brothers graduated with honors from Jerseyville High School and went on to earn degrees from the University of Illinois where they were both members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

All three sons served their country in the armed forces. George had enlisted in the Army and graduated from officer training school as a second lieutenant in 1943. He was originally assigned to the 761st Tank Battalion, a segregated unit. He transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps and earned his wings as a Tuskegee Airman on May 23, 1944.

George CiscoTragically, at age 26, George was killed in a training accident before he ever served overseas, and was the first person of color from Jersey County to lose his life in the war effort. During a routine training mission on August 16, 1944, George’s aircraft was on the runway at an airfield in Walterboro, South Carolina, when it was struck by another plane coming in for a landing. He left behind his wife, Claire, and their infant daughter, Donna.

Arnold earned his wings as a Tuskegee Airman and was assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, eventually deployed to Ramitelli Air Base in Italy. There he flew the infamous P-51 Mustang fighter in ground strafing and bomber escort missions. His wartime service earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal and the European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

In another tragic turn of fate for the Cisco family, Arnold was tragically killed at the young age of 26 during military leave to visit his family. On May 19, 1946, the transport plane he was on hit power lines during a storm and crashed near Tuskegee, Alabama. He had been in Chicago to visit his wife, Hinnie, who was pregnant at the time with their son, and was on his way back to Tuskegee where he was to be promoted to the rank of Major before returning to fight overseas.Arnold Cisco 

Because the family lost two of their three children to the war, their youngest son, Harlow, was honorably discharged after three years of service in the Army when the Korean War broke out. According to the Sole Survivor policy that was enacted in 1948, the military was compelled to excuse a family’s sole survivor from active service during wartime.

The history of the Cisco family is a lesson in service, sacrifice and determination to press on in the face of great adversity. The community of Alton and Jerseyville will proudly erect their monument so these forgotten heroes can stand as a beacon of inspiration and courage.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron salutes George and Arnold Cisco, and remembers the great sacrifice of their family.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Dr. Fenton Sands

Screen Shot 2017 03 22 at 11.47.59 AMDefying expectations is a hallmark of the Tuskegee Airmen. It may seem unusual that a kid from the urban metropolis of New York City would emerge as an international agricultural expert, but original Tuskegee Airmen Dr. Fenton sands did just that, and much more. He would grow up to leave those crowded city streets for the Ivy League, serve his country, and go on to dedicate his post-war civilian career to people all over the world. Like other inspirational Tuskegee Airmen, Sands has left his mark on history.

Although Sands was born in Harlem in 1918, his family originally emigrated to the U.S. from the Bahamas to find better opportunities for work and education. The sentiment “Get an education!” ran strong in their family. The children knew that, no matter what, this was their path forward. Sands hit that first milestone in 1936, graduating from Stuyvesant High School, one of the best high schools in New York City at the time.

Now called Jackie Robinson Park, Sands was inspired by Colonial Park, 10 blocks of open space in Harlem that sparked his curious nature. Growing up across this street from this gem where city met nature, his love for science took root, eventually leading him to Cornell to study agriculture. He was defying odds – a black man from the big city majoring in agriculture at a rural and predominantly white college.

He studied hard at Cornell, learned to farm, worked for a power company, and was a resident of the now-famous Telluride House. Still in existence today, the Telluride House is a unique community of Cornell scholars – undergraduate, graduate and faculty – passionate about intellectual engagement, democratic self-governance, and community living. Within this setting, Sands was afforded a rich and intense academic experience. He graduated in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in horticulture and agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production. He was the first in his family to earn a college degree.

While still at Cornell, Sands applied to the U.S. Army Air Corps’ new flight training program for black men because of his interest in aviation. He also wanted the opportunity to do something worthwhile for his country that was previously restricted from black Americans. Many people in the country, like Sands, were eager to join the war effort, and wanted the chance to do so regardless of the color of their skin, in critical roles where their skills and education could make a marked difference in fighting the enemy.

In June of 1942, Sands passed the examination needed to qualify as a cadet in the Air Corps to the great delight and pride of his entire family. By December he was assigned to pre-flight training at the Army Air Force Advanced Flying Training School in Tuskegee, Alabama and his future in aviation was set in motion.

As a cadet, Sands was a part of the now iconic picture with then New York City mayor Firello LaGuardia with the first class of black aviation navigation cadets who would go on to fly bombers. The group was heralded on this historic visit to New York and many flocked to see them in a parade, amazed at the prospect of black Americans flying aircraft in the war effort.

Sands was commissioned as an officer February of 1944. By June he completed bombardier training and was later assigned to the 477th Bombardier Group, becoming a member of a unique, select group of black navigators-bombardiers, the first of their kind in the military.

The war ended before the 477th was deployed overseas and Sands was honorably discharged in December of 1945 and shortly after married Dorothy Holder. The two moved to Africa in 1946, working as missionaries in Liberia to help re-open and revitalize the church-run Cuttington College. Sands would work on the school’s agricultural program, and during that time their two first children were born.

Sands and his family returned to the states so he could pursue a doctorate, and in 1954 he graduated from Cornell once again, this time with a PhD in agriculture. With their third child born during this time, the growing family once again returned to Africa where Sands served as Cuttington’s Vice President and Director of Agriculture. Later he would go on to take an assignment with his family in Nigeria.

His important work in agriculture expanded to work with USAID and the World Bank, serving in such locations as South Sudan, Sudan, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Morocco, Tunisia, Madagascar, Greece, South Yemen, North Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Phillippines. He retired in 1982.

Dr. and Mrs. Sands continued to explore and travel the world in their retirement, and joined several civic organizations. He was a member of the General “Chappie” James chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., mentoring young people through his inspirational military service and civilian career experience.

Sands passed away in 1998. His commitment to education and life’s work inspired all three of his children and seven grandchildren attended college. For a more detailed account of his life and to see photos and original documents from him time as a Tuskegee Airmen and working around the world, read “A Tuskegee Airman and Much More” by his son, Fenton Sands Jr.

We salute you, Dr. Sands, for your service and worthy contributions to make our world a better place. RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Founding member Don Hinz inducted into CAF Hall of Fame

IMG 3496In 2010, the Commemorative Air Force established the CAF Hall of Fame to honor members who have made monumental contributions towards the success and worldwide impact of the organization. On March 4, 2017, the late CAF Red Tail Squadron founding member Don Hinz, retired Navy commander, was inducted into the CAF Hall of Fame for his outstanding efforts to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen through his volunteer service with the CAF.

Tragically, Don passed away in 2004 from injuries sustained in an engine malfunction in the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, but his vision to bring the lessons of these important American heroes into every classroom in the country continues to fuel the work of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. The addition of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to the CAF Red Tail Squadron was a direct result of that vision.

At the induction ceremony, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and founding member Doug Rozendaal presented the award to Don's son, USMC officer and pilot Ben Hinz, who accepted it on behalf of the entire Hinz family.

Hinz noted that his father would not have accepted the award solely for himself. “He would point to the men and women who, 75 years ago, stood on the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute and fought for the opportunity to defend their country in the skies above Europe. That’s where the honor really lies. And if I think about how we honor their story and their tradition, along with my dad, I think the answer is quite simple. We fulfill my dad’s vision to put the story into every classroom in America of courage in the face of adversity as embodied by the Tuskegee Airmen. Thank you to the CAF for continuing to fulfill his vision and honoring his memory tonight.”

Don’s respect and reverence for the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen brought a vintage warbird back to the skies to inspire an entire generation to RISE ABOVE, and not just wow the audience at air shows. He saw restoring the P-51C Mustang as a tool to engage and ignite conversations with people of all ages that would help bring about an appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Tuskegee Airmen to serve their country while fighting for their own equality.

CAF's tribute to Hinz from the 2017 CAF Hall of Fame induction ceremony includes an interview he gave in the early days of the project. He said, “This aircraft is going to represent the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans in World War II. It will travel the country – maybe even the world – telling their story, celebrating their history and educating youth about their ability to follow their dreams, overcome obstacles and find their success.”

Hinz left an indelible mark not only on the CAF Red Tail Squadron, but also on the entire Commemorative Air Force. “Don brought education to the forefront,” said Rozendaal. “He knew this was not about an airplane; it was a tool we needed to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was a great leader and an incredible guy. He made me a better man. Don Hinz made this a better organization.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron extends hearty congratulations to the Hinz family. Join us as we continue to honor his vision to inspire and educate people everywhere through the remarkable story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Officially taking to the airways TODAY!

We’re excited to report that CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and Squadron Leader Doug Rozendaal has just taken final delivery of the Tuskegee Airmen after over a year of repairs. The aircraft is now officially back in service of the CAF Red Tail Squadron to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen to audiences around the country for the 2017 air show season!

Today Rozendaal is flying the Mustang to the CAF National Airbase at Dallas Executive Airport where the aircraft will rest for a short bit before hitting the air show circuit. The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE: Red Tail program has already launched its 2017 cross-country tour and is currently in Phoenix, Ariz. for private visits at local schools, with special guest original Tuskegee Airman Col Charles McGee.

The P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen is slated to make its public debut at the 2017 Yuma Airshow March 17 and 18 where it will wow the audience with an aerobatic performance in the show, and be on static display alongside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to inspire and inform people of all ages with the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen, our country’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.

The Mustang has been tapped to appear at many events around the country in 2017. To find out if the RISE ABOVE: Red Tail program, featuring the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, will be near you, keep tabs on our events calendar. Make plans to come see us in person, introduce yourself and leave inspired to RISE ABOVE any challenge, just like the Tuskegee Airmen.

Once again, welcome back to our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen! You are a treasure!

Photo Courtesy Adam Glowski March 2017 copy

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards

During World War II, many families proudly watched their sons and daughters pledge their service to their country. Some sent – and lost – multiple children to the war effort. For the Edwards family of Steubenville, Ohio, their two sons, Jerome and John “Ellis,” became part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, piloting aircraft to join the air war over Europe. Although they were not immune to the tragedy of war, they have celebrated the Edwards’ brothers’ achievements for generations.

Both brothers graduated from Steubenville High School and went on to attend West Virginia State College. Jerome enrolled in 1935, and “Ellis” followed two years later at his older brother’s insistence. “Ellis” had aspirations of becoming a dentist, but instead both enrolled in the school’s aviation program when WVSC became one of the first historically black colleges to participate in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

A nationwide program to cultivate pilots for the war effort, the CPT was an especially exciting development because of the opportunities it opened up for aspiring black pilots. It would produce the country’s first black military pilots and their support personnel, known as the Tuskegee Airmen. After completing CPT, cadets would go on to advanced flight training through the U.S. Army Air Corps. Black flight cadets were segregated at the Tuskegee Institute, where they learned to fly the fighter aircraft that would be play a crucial role in the United States’ air power of World War II.

Both brothers became skilled pilots, earning their private pilots licenses in the CPT. When Jerome graduated in 1940, he went off to Tuskegee where he successfully completed all phases of advanced training. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in September of 1942 and assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group. He flew both the P-40 and P-51 aircraft, assigned to the Army Air Force Base at Oscoda, Michigan, for advanced aerial combat training.

Tragically, Jerome was killed May 7, 1943 when his P-40 suffered an engine malfunction at takeoff resulting in a fatal crash. It was the first fatality suffered by the 332nd Fighter Group, and a terrible loss for the Edwards family.

Although he qualified for a family hardship honorable discharge after the loss of his brother, “Ellis” made the decision to remain in the U.S. Army Air Corps and honor his brother by dedicating his military service to his memory. “Ellis” graduated from Tuskegee and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant April 8, 1944.

By early 1945, “Ellis” began his service overseas at Ramitelli Air Force Base in Italy conducting combat and bomber escort missions as part of the 12th and 15th Air Forces. On April 1 of that year while serving as the squadron section leader on a bombing and strafing mission over Nazi held territory, “Ellis” shot down two German ME-109 aircraft. Tuskegee Airmen took 12 enemy aircraft down that day.

For the two he brought down singlehandedly, “Ellis” received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

During the remainder of his war service, he also received Air Medals with Oak Leaf Clusters, and as part of the 332nd Fighter Group, earned a Presidential Unit citation for the combat skills of its pilots. After World War II, he flew multiple combat missions during the Korean War in the F86 Sabre Jet. Upon leaving the military, he was an announcer for a radio station in Washington, D.C. and eventually retired in Los Angeles.

John “Ellis” Edwards passed away on June 3, 1979.

For service to our country, their extraordinary achievements as Tuskegee Airmen and for being proud sons of Ohio, the names of Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards are inscribed on the Western Pennsylvania Tuskegee Airmen Memorial, erected in 2013 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania to honor the almost 100 pioneering Tuskegee Airmen from the western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio area.

May their service, sacrifice and struggle for equality inspire us all to triumph over adversity and achieve remarkable heights.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Hear the Tuskegee Airmen, “In Their Own Words”

200x200 In Their WordsWe are excited to announce that we will be offering the original film “In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen” by Bryton Entertainment in our web store. This touching documentary debuted on television stations across the United States early in 2017 and is now available on DVD for you to add to your collection or share with someone who could be inspired to RISE ABOVE with the powerful message of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Get your copy today and support the work of the CAF Red Tail Squadron with your purchase. We’re pleased to offer free shipping on this special order as well!

This fully re-mastered and expanded edition contains over 35 minutes of bonus interviews and a special panel discussion at the National Air Force Museum with original Tuskegee Airmen Lt Col George Hardy, former NASA administrator Col Fred Gregory, the film’s producer Bryan Williams and director Denton Adkinson.

Get your copy and help the CAF Red Tail Squadron keep the history and legacy of our country’s first black military pilots alive for generations to come! Watch a sneak peak on our YouTube channel and share with others to inspire them to RISE ABOVE their own obstacles and achieve success.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Check out our line-up for the 2017 to air show circuit!

After an incident last year resulted in an 11 month restoration, the CAF Red Tail Squadron's P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen will return to flight this 2017 air show season to wow audiences with its aerobatic tribute to our nation’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.

Our unique cross-country outreach program also includes the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit. This mobile movie theater takes visitors on a journey through time – and then through the air – with the original short film “Rise Above.” The theater’s dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen creates the sensation of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen. Entrance to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is always free, although tickets may be required to host venues.

Here is a snapshot of where you can find the CAF Red Tail Squadron. For a full list of events, visit redtail.org/calendar.

Dallas, TX – February 6-17

CAF National Airbase Tribute to Black History Month

 

Yuma, AZ – March 17-18

MCAS Yuma Airshow

 

Columbus, GA – April 8-9

Thunder in the Valley Air Show

 

Montgomery, AL – April 8-9

Maxwell Air Force Base Air Show

 

Meridian, MS – April 15

Community Open House at Key Field

 

Panama City, FL – April 22-23

Gulf Coast Salute Open House & Air Show

 

Lake Charles, LA – April 28-30

Chennault International Airshow

 

Waseca, MN – July 13-17

Waseca County Free Fair

 

Ypsilanti, MI – September 2-4

Thunder Over Michigan Air Show

 

Omaha, NE – September 13-17

Nebraska Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Community Outreach Event

 

Port Clinton, OH – September 20-24

Liberty Aviation Museum Open House

 

Tallahassee, FL – October 31-November 5

Community Open House

 

Atlanta, GA – October 7-8

CAF Atlanta Warbird Weekend

While on tour, the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit makes additional visits to local schools where students are encouraged to think critically about the group’s Six Guiding Principles – Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit and Expect to Win. Contact Kristi Younkin, logistics coordinator, at logistics@redtail.org or (479) 228-4520 for information on how to bring the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to your community.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Meet Gwen McNeal, our Tuskegee Airmen liaison

At the CAF Red Tail Squadron, we call our volunteers ambassadors. Why this distinction? Because those that join our team do so out of a deep reverence and respect for the Tuskegee Airmen. Their commitment to our mission is evident. They do more than lend a hand; they are a friendly face to the thousands of people that are touched by the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen. We’re proud to have these ambassadors help spread the word!

Gwen McNealOne of our ambassadors, Gwen McNeal recently stepped up to become the Squadron’s liaison to original Tuskegee Airmen. Her service to others goes far beyond her work with the CAF Red Tail Squadron. McNeal has been serving others through her many years in the field of vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities.

McNeal is the manager of services for the blind for a large region of Michigan. At all levels of ability or degrees of blindness, clients in her care are instilled with the confidence that there are, in fact, very few things that a blind person cannot do. At times coming from a place of despair, people leave McNeal and her staff with a renewed sense of purpose, along with the skills and tools to maximize independence.

“Our work encompasses a wide array of services that we offer people with blindness, from proper glasses for babies to job placement for adults. It is very rewarding work,” said McNeal. “It’s remarkable to begin a journey with a client who feels they have no hope, and watch them evolve and realize what they truly are capable of. Each time it’s amazing to see what this dedicated staff can do.”

With a bachelor’s degree in deaf and blind education, a master’s degree in learning disabilities, and advanced training in rehabilitation leadership and vocational rehabilitation administration, McNeal has made it her life’s work to help others achieve their greatest potential. She has shared this passion for education and witnessed others reap the rewards.

“I counseled a man that became blind later in life,” recalls McNeal. “I encouraged him to go back to college. Although he thought it was unattainable, he ended up getting his degree and coming back to work at the same agency I worked for. I have seen students I’ve worked with grow up, marry, have families and careers. Watching them succeed has been so inspirational for me.”

Although she always knew she wanted to help people, McNeal says she was guided towards a career in the media and started out pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism. But when a professor made a racist and disparaging remark, it was enough for her look at other majors.

“I took an internship in the deaf and blind education department, and it really changed my life,” she says. “My sister had problems with vision since birth, and it was here I saw an avenue to help people like her. I had finally found my passion, which is still with me today. People with disabilities can defy expectations and I encourage anyone who feels like they need help – or knows someone who does – to contact their local state agency for the blind. You may surprise yourself with what you can learn and accomplish!”

After meeting and volunteering with several original Tuskegee Airmen, McNeal felt a personal determination to ensure that the important experiences and lessons of these role models were not lost to future generations. She grew up with a keen interest in aviation, which led her to learn about the Airmen, but it was meeting these unsung heroes that kindled her passion to want to tell their stories.

“In my role as Tuskegee Airmen liaison for the CAF Red Tail Squadron, I want to help honor the Airmen that are still with us and help them share their life lessons,” she says. “Whatever roles they played – pilots, cooks, nurses, mechanics – the Airmen exemplify for young people that preparing yourself is the first step if you want any chance of succeeding. We need to show kids how to define their own heroes, and teaching them about the Tuskegee Airmen can help do that.”

To learn more about the CAF Red Tail Squadron ambassador program, visit http://www.redtail.org/support-the-mission/volunteer/.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We’re ready to kick off the air show season with the debut of our Mustang in Yuma!

Our unique tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen will be at the 2017 Yuma Airshow March 18 where we will debut the first showing of our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen after a year of restorations. Be inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen – the nation’s first black military pilots and their support personnel – with our Mustang and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit!

Are you in the Yuma area? Before the airshow kicks off, the Traveling Exhibit will visit the Fourth Avenue Junior High School to bring the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen directly to the classroom. The public is invited to visit the Traveling Exhibit at the school from 3:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. For more information, contact Jose Cazares, Fourth Avenue Junior High principal, at (928) 580-8117.

After an incident last year resulted in 11 months of repairs, our P-51C Mustang will return to flight at the air show to wow the audience with its aerobatic tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. The aircraft will also be on static display for up-close viewing, a rare treat for attendees as it is one of only a few like it still flying.The free RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater will be open at the air show Saturday, March 18, featuring the original short film “Rise Above” that takes the audience on a journey through time – and then through the air. The theater’s dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen creates the sensation of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in the P-51C Mustang, the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“We offer a truly one-of-a-kind adventure that resonates with all ages,” said CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader and pilot Doug Rozendaal, who will fly the Mustang in the air show. “It’s much more than a history lesson. The Tuskegee Airmen’s ability to triumph over adversity serves as a means to inspire others to RISE ABOVE obstacles in their own lives and achieve their goals.”

All are welcome to join the CAF Red Tail Squadron at the FREE family-friendly 2017 Yuma Airshow to be held at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, AZ March 17 and 18. To learn more, visit www.yumaairshow.com.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We’ve expanded our offerings in celebration of Black History Month!

To celebrate the Tuskegee Airmen’s contribution to our country, we have unveiled a new “Resources for educators” area of our website in honor of Black History Month that features a free downloadable RISE ABOVE Resource Kit for teachers and youth leaders. The materials and activities can be used to enhance lessons about the Tuskegee Airmen and fuel participation in our Black History Month essay contest, going on now until February 28.

Find the resources for educators at http://www.redtail.org/rise-red-tail/rise-resource-kit/.

In an effort to bolster our educational outreach efforts and impact more students with the inspirational history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the CAF Red Tail Squadron has made their resources easily accessible to all. They are also offering supporting materials such as books, classroom posters and dog tags featuring the Squadron’s Six Guiding Principles at more affordable price points.

After learning about the Tuskegee Airmen from the RISE ABOVE Resource Kit, teachers and youth leaders are encouraged to have their students participate in the Squadron’s 2017 Black History Month essay contest. This fun way to learn about the achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen will give students the chance to put into action what they have learned about the importance of education, training and especially determination, based on the Tuskegee Airmen’s example of overcoming adversity. The contest will be a lesson both in inspiration and finding the motivation to achieve. Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in three age categories.

“We were founded on the vision to bring the history of the Tuskegee Airmen into every classroom in America, and the addition of these resources to our website speaks to that effort,” said LaVone Kay, marketing director for the CAF Red Tail Squadron. “We wanted to do something that would help put our tools directly into the hands of more teachers and make it easier to integrate the inspirational history of the Tuskegee Airmen into lesson plans. I encourage anyone that works with students to take advantage of these free and affordable resources.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Volunteering – A labor of love

This is a special note from Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C pilot. Bill is not only an active member of the CAF, he volunteers his time with the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and the Urban Pilots Network to inspire others to achieve success.

Aviation has been a part of my life from a very young age. My first inspiration came from my father who was in the United States Marine Corps and served in a fighter squadron in the Vietnam War. After moving to Canada as a kid, I joined the Royal Canadian 19th and 27th air cadet squadrons where I participated in a plethora of fun and challenging activities that prepared me for a future in the cockpit. A string of experiences and hard work led me to become a pilot, and eventually fly warbirds. I’m humbled to have stood on the shoulders of the brave Tuskegee Airmen who paved the way for me.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many stories of how the Tuskegee Airmen have made a positive impact on so many lives. Their influence and inspiration spans the eras – yesterday, today and tomorrow. By honoring their legacy and sharing their experience, we can have a positive impact and educate people of all ages. These experiences fuel my passion to volunteer for Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and the CAF Red Tail Squadron.

I’m also a member of the Urban Pilots Network. This group gives their time and talent to bridge the gap between aviation and the urban community. I currently participate in outreach programs with the group and try to “Inspire for Higher,” which is our motto. Carving out time to give to these worthy groups isn’t easy, but it’s a labor of love that I believe is very important. It’s my way of paying forward the opportunities the Tuskegee Airmen worked hard to ensure that people of color like myself could have.

It’s a privilege to pilot the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang around the country and speak to kids and adults about the importance of the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. I’ve particularly enjoyed the times I’ve worked directly with original Tuskegee Airmen who so generously give of their time to volunteer with our organizations. Their experience can translate to all ages and backgrounds. I’ve tried to live by the example they’ve set, and I hope my volunteer work can impart that positive message to others.

In the New Year, I wish you all a renewed and refreshed spirit to carry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. May they be remembered and honored for generations to come.

Inspire for higher!

Shep

Bill Shepard and UPN members

Bill Shepard with members of the Urban Pilots Network at an event with the CAF Dixie Wing's "Red Nose".

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Join us in congratulating Doug Rozendaal on his return to CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader!

Today we are proud to announce that P-51C Mustang pilot Doug Rozendaal will return to the helm as Squadron Leader. A dedicated volunteer, Rozendaal has played a pivotal role in the formation and ongoing success of the Squadron and its mission.

We would also like to thank our former Squadron Leader Bill Shepard for his service to the organization. Shepard is currently the Vice President of Education for the CAF and will continue his role as P-51C Mustang pilot and volunteer with the leadership team.

“Doug Rozendaal has a long history of leadership roles within the Commemorative Air Force organization. We are happy to have him return to the position of CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader and are certain under his leadership the program will continue to thrive,” said Commemorative Air Force President Stephan C. Brown.

Rozendaal paved his own way to a career in aviation and has logged more than 10,000 hours in the air flying more than 170 different types of aircraft. As a certified warbird pilot, he has flown a P-51 Mustang, Corsair, Hellcat, Wildcat, P-40, TBM, Zero, DC-3, PBY Catalina, BT-13, T-6, T-28 trainers, as well as the CAF’s B-25 bomber Miss Mitchell. He has been a member of the CAF since 1989. Rozendaal is the owner of PetroBlend, an independent lubricant blender and distributor of automotive, heavy duty, agricultural and industrial lubricants.

“I am excited and look forward to building on Bill's successes,” said Rozendaal. “In every metric, RISE ABOVE: Red Tail is a valuable educational and inspirational program that has exceeded our expectations since its inception. We look forward to continuing that into the future.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

 

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We’re celebrating five years and a half million visitors!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is proud to share that we recently wrapped up our annual cross country tour of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, participating in 36 events in 16 states over 10 months. This marks five years since the Traveling Exhibit was launched to share the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen with audiences across the country. In that time span, over half a million people have experienced a compelling and inspirational piece of American history delivered by this unique educational outreach vehicle!

The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is a fully functional mobile movie theater housed in a climate controlled 53’ semi trailer that is deployed to events around the country. This immersive experience inspires and educates audiences about the Tuskegee Airmen, our county’s first black military pilots and their support personnel, and the obstacles they had to overcome to serve their country during World War II. Because of its dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen, the film creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in the P-51C Mustang – the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen. View a preview at www.redtail.org/traveling-exhibit/.

“The five year mark is an important milestone for us,” said Kristi Younkin, CAF Red Tail Squadron logistics coordinator. “We’ve visited 36 states since the inception of this key component of our educational outreach program. Our goal has been to bring the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen to audiences in every state of the continental U.S., and welcoming over a half million visitors to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is exciting and emboldens us to work hard to bring the lesson of the Airmen to new communities and events.”

For further information about how to bring the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit or P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen to your community, event or school, contact Younkin at logistics@redtail.org or (479) 228-4520.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Pearl Harbor Day, 75 years later

December 7, 1941 changed the landscape of the American public. Service before self seeped into the collective conscious. People of all walks of life felt compelled to step forward and heed the call. But not everyone was welcome.

The men who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen – our country’s first black military pilots – felt this draw to service same as everyone else. They had the passion and skill to fight the war from the air, and worked hard for this opportunity at a time when they had to surmount absurd obstacles to be able to do so. While military leadership dug in their heels on their false belief of racial superiority, the Tuskegee Airmen endured prejudice and mistreatment in order to fly and fight for their country.

49While some thought the color of their skin should preclude them from serving our country in this manner, times were changing and the war effort would need as many pilots as it could get. Borne of this necessity, the Tuskegee Airmen would ultimately prove to the entire military establishment that their ability to perform as well as their white counterparts was far more meaningful than any perceived lack of ability based on their complexion. The resulting contribution to the war effort and desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces was huge, although under-acknowledged for decades.

75 years later, has apathy replaced the horror of that day that will live in infamy? We hope not. We believe the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen – and that of all the men and women who served and sacrificed during this terrible war – will not only be remembered, but inspire each one of us to rise above our own obstacles and be our very best. The most powerful inoculation against apathy, and repeating past mistakes, is empathy and remembrance.

On this day set aside to reflect on the attack that drew our nation into a world war, we pause to remember and appreciate the two wars fought by the Tuskegee Airmen – against fascism abroad and racism at home. And may we forever honor their service and sacrifice.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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